Decisive, but not Devisive

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The same conversation as sparked my last entry also ventured into this topic which is very key for us at Jacob’s Well. We don’t just need a new kind of church for the sake of relevance, but because the church has become so polarized here in the United States. Whole denominations decide what and how they will do things not based on their core values and theology, but in order to not be confused with churches they don’t agree with (and feel threatened by – that’s another story).

Something I think my ‘mainline’ tradition has been missing is decisiveness. That is, ‘Why follow Jesus?’ What does it matter, what difference does it make? We associate the decisiveness of faith – a core message of the Gospel, God does make a difference – with the way some very fundamentalist churches have played it out; only being concerned with ‘saving souls,’ with drawing lines of who is ‘Christian’ and who is not. We don’t want to define whom loves by excluding people (homosexuals, non-born-again’s, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, other denominations, etc) so we don’t talk about what it is that God calls us to at all. We just talk around it, we make it ‘easy’ and that is different than making it the greatest and biggest investment of our lives. We also haven’t found ways to articulate how God might be at work in other faiths and other lifestyles that are ‘foreign’ to us without gutting what is decisive about our faith. We’ve left ‘decisiveness’ to others, but it doesn’t belong to them alone, it belongs to all who seek to ‘take up their cross’ and follow Jesus.

It is time to claim decisiveness back. We can affirm the decisiveness of our faith without creating unnecessary devisiveness. We don’t have to decide whether Buddhists will go to hell or heaven, whether homosexuality is a sin or not. Face it, God hasn’t asked our opinion on these issues and God hasn’t asked us to judge each other. Rather, to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4.15), witness to what God has shown us (1 Peter 2.9) and let those seeds take root in people’s lives trusting God’s Spirit to be at work (Matthew 13). To be honest about our own need for forgiveness, redemption and transformation (1 Corinthians 15.9-10).

We can be decisive – we have the greatest news and the greatest relationship in the world that changes us whether we want it to or not – without being devisive – our job is to let people know they too are children of God, not how much God has judged them,

This is a precarious position to hold, and I’ve been taken to task for it before. What I find so compellingly Christ-like about it is that it depends of God’s power of transforming our lives and forgiving our mistakes rather than our ability to conform people to what we think they should be like to be “Christian.”

One of our core values at is to Focus on the mission that unites, not details that divide – We value unity and diversity.” This holy balancing act is a good example of that value and I see it happening at Jacob’s Well.

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2 responses to “Decisive, but not Devisive

  1. So, I gotta tell you that this stuff makes me a little uneasy. I was baptized and educated Roman Catholic (high school, college, graduate school), and I’ve certainly gone through my own ups and downs with my faith over time (my last great quandary was the whole concept of transubstantiation—but that’s another subject). I guess you’d say I’m a “picker and a chooser.” I’m certain people feel like this in every faith. But, I’ve always stuck with my religion because I believe in the importance of community. For me it was the community of Catholicism, not any sort of community that I was actually involved with. I guess it was comfortable to know that even if I didn’t “get” my faith; I was still being a “good Catholic” by going to church, saying the prayers, kneeling when I was supposed to, etc. It didn’t matter that I didn’t “feel it” and I didn’t feel close to Christ. I was going through the motions because the motions made me feel safe—like I was doing “the right thing.”

    I’m happy to be finally focusing on what really matters. And yet I feel a little lost without all that stuff I don’t even like. I’m generally in favor of some tradition; it helps us to remember and reflect on what we are thankful for. But when you take the tradition out of church, it’s both easier and at the same time more difficult for me to focus on Christ. It’s easier because we can talk about Christ; really talk about Him in language and ways that make sense (you do a great job of that at JW). It’s harder because I don’t really know how to apply the Christ part to my life (prayers and tradition were an easier way to “apply” it all). Is it enough to simply know you’re a good person, care about people, do good, etc.? Why not just be nice and good and not worry about the other stuff? Does Christ really need a place in this? Can’t I just be a good person and let that be it? (I obviously think He does, but I just need help building my case a bit more!)

  2. I was thinking some of the same stuff Laura with regards to the place of church and/or Christ in our lives. If we are doing good things, caring for people, recognizing our faults and trying to make changes then what role does it have? For many years I have disengaged from organized church. In its traditional sense it had become very irrelevant for me so I took the teachings of the bible (those Christ-like things we all aspire to) as well as the words and actions of insightful people both past and present to find fulfillment. My dip into “the well” is really two fold. To provide inspiration and reminders of what the true priorities is our lives should be (love, kindness, joy). Finding others who want to wade through the muck of some traditional churches which seem to think strength comes from looking at those things which divide rather than unite us. So far I’m liking what I hear. 🙂

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